Some time ago IndyLive Radio put out a call for a Forces Veteran to talk on their programme. About 40 veterans turned up! Those veterans stayed in touch, formed Veterans for Scottish Independence and the group has progressed from there.
Our Glasgow P4Indy Group was interested in hearing from independence supporters who have been or are members of the UK Armed Forces. We know from speaking to people at our street stall that some No voters are influenced by a sense of loyalty to UK, and its history. Often that loyalty includes a feeling that supporting independence is somehow being disloyal to those Scots men and women, past and present, who serve in our Armed Forces. We have been wondering how we might best talk to people who feel that way. Loyalty is after all a positive value to hold.
So we contacted the Veterans group to ask if someone could come to speak to us and as a result Russ Denny came along to our May meeting. Russ joined up when he was 17 years old because he needed a job, and he served in the Army for 27 years.
Our Glasgow people very much appreciated hearing Russ’ insights from his own military background and his passion for Scottish independence. This is what Jim Stamper, one of our Glasgow Group members writes of what Russ said and the discussion afterwards,
Some general observations from Russ
- Generally soldiers fight for their comrades not for Queen and Country.
- There was a pride in local Scottish regiments which largely stopped with the amalgamation into the 1st and 2nd Scottish Infantry Battalions – one of which is based in England. Personnel are not all Scots but mixed Commonwealth peoples.
- The UK Forces actively recruit Commonwealth people and are still not managing to recruit enough. Forces are cut year after year and there are currently about 70,000 troops.
- Values and standards demanded of Forces include moral courage – to speak out when something is not right.
- The annual commemoration at the Cenotaph is shown as a great display of veneration by Queen and politicians for the sacrifices made by our Armed Forces. While the troops are there for four hours the Queen arrives 5 minutes before the cameras start and leaves 5 minutes after they stop. The politicians are maybe there 20 minutes before and leave 20 minutes after.
Some common mistaken views, misinformation and downright lies that we might hear regarding how members of the Armed Forces feel about Scottish independence.
- It is often stated forces personnel took the Oath of Allegiance so can’t support Scottish Independence. The Oath of Allegiance is to the Queen, not the country – there are many serving in the British Army from independent Commonwealth countries.
- Forces personnel are ordinary people, the same variety of people as elsewhere. It is not true that all members of the Forces are against independence. Media gets away with saying this because forces personnel are not allowed to speak out.
- The claim that those supporting independence are ‘spitting on the graves of fallen comrades’ makes Forces personnel angry. Many who died were African, Indian and of other independent nations.
- There is also the lie that their pensions are at risk with independence. Fijian soldiers get their pension OK.
Defence needs after independence
- Scotland contributes about £3 billion / year to UK defence. Whereas for an effective Scottish North Atlantic defence force – ie one which actually has ships around the Scottish coastline unlike now – the maximum would be £1.6 billion / year.
- On becoming independent, Scotland would be due its share of UK military assets. So we wouldn’t be starting from scratch to set up a Scottish defence force.
- Arguing to keeping Trident for jobs is likened to not curing the plague because it would mean less jobs for body collectors and grave diggers. Only 350 jobs are directly related to the nuclear weapons. A high number of workers at Faslane are transient workers from outwith Scotland.
Looking after personnel after they leave the Forces:
- If someone has served their full term, which is 18 years or reaching 40 years of age, then they get an MOD pension at the point when they leave the Forces. If they have served a shorter term, then they don’t get their MOD pension until they reach normal retirement age. They will generally have saved nothing and will have no accommodation.
- For many it also like leaving a family.
- Many find it very difficult to adjust to civilian life.
- These issues need dealt with. There is an Armed Forces Covenant encapsulating the moral obligation to those who serve, have served, their families and the bereaved. This is intended to ensure they should face no disadvantage compared to other citizens in the provision of public and commercial services.
- If you served 20 years abroad this should be taken to be the equivalent of having worked 20 years in UK when considered for housing, loans, mortgages etc. If you leave forces with illness related to the work then that should be covered.
- Conservative and Labour Governments have largely left it up to local government but without providing sufficient funding to them. Keith Brown of SNP and others have spoken out about this inadequacy but this has not been picked up by the media.
The Veterans for Independence group run their own street all and their members are often also in other Indy groups. They go on independence marches and aim to make themselves visible, similar to English Scots for Yes, but are not allowed to wear uniform. After hearing Russ talking, our group think that it would be very helpful to have Veterans for Indy people present at our and other pro-independence groups’ stalls.
The Twitter handle for the Veterans is @SoldierWhy Or click here to go to their Facebook page.
Thank you, Russ, for taking the time to come along to our meeting!